Kristina Marie Darling is the author of twenty books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan (BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and Scorched Altar: Selected Poems and Stories 2007-2014 (BlazeVOX Books, 2014). Her awards include fellowships from Yaddo, the Ucross Foundation, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She was recently selected as a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome.
SL: Reading The Sun and the Moon is a bit like dreaming to a beautiful and haunting soundtrack. The book makes use of incantation, repetition, iteration and reiteration to create a mysterious and ceremonial solemnity. And then there’s the celestial bodies which inhabit the narrative, not to mention the astronomical clocks looming over everything. Can you talk about the etymology of this book, and how it might relate to astronomy, dreams, music, or the supernatural?
KMD: That’s a great question. I’m very interested in relationships that are haunted: by the past, by landscapes, and by one’s own imagination. The Sun & the Moon is essentially a love story, one that’s haunted by celestial bodies. The book takes the astronomical clock as its central metaphor, depicting astral bodies that are forever orbiting one another, and forever distant from one another. Their union is haunted by a sky filled with debris and dead stars, the remnants of what once was a burst of light.
In its own strange way, the book is very autobiographical. I believe that poetry can be autobiographical, and deeply personal, yet still imaginative, unruly, and strange. For me, creating an imaginary world like the one found in The Sun & the Moon is almost more personal than writing down what actually “happened,” since the reader sees and experiences what (for me) was the emotional truth. After all, there is no objective truth to be had, not even for scientists.
SL: I very much agree – the notion of the “personal” is so much roomier than that of the “confessional.” I’m fascinated by the poems from The Other City, which I am pleased to be publishing in a future issue of Posit. They seem to address an ‘other’ version of what might be considered ‘ordinary’ reality: weddings, elementary school, daily civic life, etc. I also love the prose poems which you recently published in The Tupelo Quarterly, from The Arctic Circle. Can you tell us a bit about those collections, and when and where we might get the chance to read them?
KMD: Thank you for the kind words about my new poems! The Other City is still a work in progress. The poems are a bit different from my previous work, since they use sound to forge connections between ideas and images within the text, and essentially to create narrative continuity. I think of them as an engagement with Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, as well as the work of more contemporary writers: Hanna Andrews, Thalia Field, and Inger Christensen. A couple of the poems are forthcoming in Laurel Review, and I’m thrilled to have several pieces in Posit. I hope to have the manuscript ready to send out by the end of the year.
And The Arctic Circle was just released by BlazeVOX Books. In this collection, you’ll find a newly minted wife, the ghost of another wife, and a man whose true love was found frozen inside his house. I hope you’ll check it out! It’s perfect for Halloween, after all.
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Mary Kasimor's THE LANDFILL DANCERS (BlazeVox)
POET AS RADIO is a weekly program on KUSF In Exile, airing Sundays from 11:30am to 12:30pm at www.savekusf.org. Jack Spicer said that the poet is not a creator, but a conduit, getting messages from an undefinable source to form the poem. He thought of a poet as a radio, broadcasting words. We like to think of POET AS RADIO as an opportunity for writers to broadcast their words as well.
November 2, 2014 Stephen Vincent Live!
Today Stephen Vincent joined us in the studio to talk about his book After Language / Letters to Jack Spicer (Blaze VOX Books, 2011). The book includes letters to Spicer interspersed with poems, which were created when Stephen took Spicer's language and reversed the words. Stephen encountered Spicer's book Language, while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nigeria in the 60s just prior to their civil war. He found Spicer's language 'solid' and he kept this book with him while going through this tumultuous time. He addresses Spicer in the book about also encountering him in Ireland, Scotland and San Francisco. Place plays a prominent role in this work. Stephen critiques Spicer but also speaks to him from a place of love and sadness that Spicer was not able to endure his own life and continue sharing his words with the world.
After the break we talked about Stephen's 'poetry without words,' Haptic art. He finds himself 'pushing my pen around' while listening to poetry or experiencing a place. He is interested in 'how you get inside space.' This art takes the form of singular pieces or accordion folded books (one of which appears in the After Language / Letters to Jack Spicer). As he is in a place, inhabiting it, listening to it, an 'inner solo ' takes over. While we may be channeling outside material when we create art, we also 'bring out own ingredients.' This is 'all about partnering with the world.'
Review: The Visit by Susan Lewis
Paperback, 104 pages
In Susan Lewis’ latest collection of poetry, This Visit, she informs the reader of the paradox of being alive in the poem, “Severence:” “the world too beautiful/despite these flaked years.” She repeats this throughout the book, reiterating her passion for existence through metaphors and sleight-of-hand magical language. Lewis creates a landscape of language that shifts meaning and then doubles back to remind the reader of what her main intent is in this collection. I believe that a poet writes from a sense of urgency; that is, a poet looks for the source of life and the meaning of life by writing poetry, and Lewis is accomplishing that in this book. She writes these poems as means to explain and explore the complexities and the fragility of human existence. She explains the inevitable in the poem, “My Life in Microbes:”
But (you say)
some of my best friends are—
to which I nod:
It is a simple response to read and enjoy This Visit as a book that is filled with word play, puns, and intellectual maneuvers. However, there is much more to this collection of poetry than one finds in the first reading. Lewis gives the reader a sense of urgency in her poems, even as they come across as being delightfully clever. There is a seriousness written between the lines of these poems, and Lewis is very serious in her intentions in This Visit.
Lewis’ title, This Visit, suggests that someone is going to or has gone “to see” another place on this earth or in someone’s psyche. It can be agreed that we are merely “visiting” the earth and that our visits are temporary and may be occasional. As humans, we try to hang onto life as we know it and as we see and experience it with as much surety as possible. But regardless of our urge and desire to stay, it is only temporary. We try to convince ourselves that we will continue to live forever, and we posture and present ourselves in that way. Lewis tells us this in the poem, “My Life in Sheets:” “strapped & / balanced/ in their come-hither / wrappers, misconstrued & /moribund, mould’ring in / chat chat chat…” As humans, we are firmly entrenched in the idea of always being here, on this earth, but as humans, we also have memory, and we realize that is not how existence continues. It discontinues and is tenuous and fleeting, and it is not at all secure and eternal.